We´ve been reading the original DMG - the ultimate DM book! - but from a B/X and OSR point-of-view.
Check the other parts of this series here.
Today we discuss EXPERIENCE and THE CAMPAIGN!
— ADJUSTMENT AND DIVISION OF EXPERIENCE POINTS 84
— EXPERIENCE VALUE OF TREASURE TAKEN 85
— EXPERIENCE POINTS VALUE OF MONSTERS 85
— SPECIAL BONUS AWARD TO EXPERIENCE POINTS 85
— GAINING EXPERIENCE LEVELS 86
THE CAMPAIGN 86
— CLIMATE & ECOLOGY 87
— TYPICAL INHABITANTS 88
— SOCIAL CLASS AND RANK IN ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 88
— Government Forms 89
— Royal And Noble Titles 89
— THE TOWN AND CITY SOCIAL STRUCTURE 89
— ECONOMICS 90
— DUTIES, EXCISES, FEES, TARIFFS, TAXES, TITHES, AND TOLLS 90
— MONSTER POPULATIONS AND PLACEMENT 90
— PLACEMENT OF MONETARY TREASURE 91
— PLACEMENT OF MAGIC ITEMS 92
— TERRITORY DEVELOPMENT BY PLAYER CHARACTERS93
— PEASANTS, SERFS, AND SLAVES 94
— A SAMPLE DUNGEON 94
— THE FIRST DUNGEON ADVENTURE 96
A small section that still manages to be overly complicated. I remember people saying how easy "1 GP = 1 XP" was. Well, that is not even half the story.
The system is byzantine and impossible to memorize, but it starts by suggesting some DM fiat: "The judgment factor is inescapable with respect to weighting experience for the points gained from slaying monsters and/or gaining treasure. You must weigh the level of challenge — be it thinking or fighting — versus the level of experience of the player character(s) who gained it."
XP for killing monsters comes BEFORE XP for treasure, and follows a obscure formula (here is something easier: square the number of HD and multiply by 10, add 50% per special ability - similar to Dark Fantasy Basic).
XP for treasure is not as straightforward as "1 GP = 1 XP" either: it depends on the power of the treasure's "guardian" (i.e., monster) and, again, lots of DM fiat.
It is unclear if the guardian must be FOUGHT or if, as people often say, AD&D is about AVOIDING fights to get to the treasure (which will still give you SOME XP, but not full XP, as suggested in page 84, last paragraph).
"Treasure must be physically taken out of the dungeon or lair and turned into a transportable medium" - apparently, this requires you to physically carry treasure that is NOT transportable. Sigh.
A note on page 85 explains that this intricate system is made to avoid the "non-game boredom" of giving XP for clerics that pray, thieves that steal, etc.
HOWEVER, acting according to your class and alignment shortens training time and allows you to level without a tutor.
Because, you see, XP is not enough for leveling: you also need to spend time and gold for TRAINING.
The time necessary to train is 1-4 weeks, according to PC behavior. In practice, just consider the AVERAGE quality of PC behavior (presumably, since the last level up) to get a rating from 1 (poor) to 4 (excellent). Of course, the text MUST be a lot more complicated than that; see for yourself.
Award experience points normally. When each character is given his or her
total, also give them an alphabetic rating — E, S, F, or P. When a character’s
total experience points indicate eligibility for an advancement in level, use the
alphabetic assessment to assign equal weight to the behavior of the character
during each separate adventure — regardless of how many or how few
experience points were gained in each. The resulting total is then divided by the
number of entries (adventures) to come up with some number from 1 to 4. This
number indicates the number of WEEKS the character must spend in study and/
or training before he or she actually gains the benefits of the new level. Be
certain that all decimals are retained, as each .145 equals a game day.
The cost is 1500 gp per level per week, which means the thief might not have enough gold to get to level 2 even with enough XP and "good behavior" (this can happen to other characters that need to train for multiple weeks).
Training costs become negligible on higher levels, but time is always important, which is nice, as it suggests rotating characters.
A campaign is a collection of adventures.
The section starts on world-building. Starting a campaign is easy enough:
This will typically result in your giving them a brief background, placing them in a settlement, and stating that they should prepare themselves to find and explore the dungeon/ruin they know is nearby. As background you inform them that they are from some nearby place where they were apprentices learning their respective professions, that they met by chance in an inn or tavern and resolved to journey together to seek their fortunes in the dangerous environment, and that, beyond the knowledge common to the area (speech, alignments, races, and the like), they know nothing of the world.Placing these new participants in a small settlement means that you need do only minimal work describing the place and its inhabitants. Likewise, as player characters are inexperienced, a single dungeon or ruins map will suffice to begin play.
Eventually, as player characters develop and grow powerful, they will exploreand adventure over all of the area of the continent. When such activitybegins, you must then broaden your general map still farther so as toencompass the whole globe. More still! You must begin to consider seriouslythe makeup of your entire multiverse — space, planets and their satellites,parallel worlds, the dimensions and planes. What is there? why? canparticipants in the campaign get there? how? will they? Never fear! By thetime your campaign has grown to such a state of sophistication, you will beready to handle the new demands.
You can create your own setting, use an existing one as written, or alter it.
"Until you are sure of yourself, lean upon the book. Improvisation might be fine later, but until you are completely relaxed as the DM, don’t run the risk of trying to “wing it” unless absolutely necessary.".
I like it - as I think improvisation is often over-rated.
Starting adventures/dungeons should be balanced against the players - not too easy, not too hard. Things get harder as the players and their characters advance in experience.
The testing grounds for novice adventurers must be kept to a difficulty factor which encourages rather than discourages players. If things are too easy, then there is no challenge, and boredom sets in after one or two games. Conversely, impossible difficulty and character deaths cause instant loss of interest.
The general idea is to develop a dungeon of multiple levels, and the deeper adventurers go, the more difficult the challenges become. [...] This same concept applies to areas outdoors as well, with more and terrible monsters occurring more frequently the further one goes away from civilization.
It is no exaggeration to state that the fantasy world builds itself, almost as if the milieu actually takes on a life and reality of its own. [...] the interaction of judge and players shapes the bare bones of the initial creation into something far larger. It becomes fleshed out, and adventuring breathes life into a make-believe world. Similarly, the geography and history you assign to the world will suddenly begin to shape the character of states and peoples. Details of former events will become obvious from mere outlines of the past course of things. Surprisingly, as the personalities of player characters and non-player characters in the milieu are bound to develop and become almost real, the nations and states and events of a well-conceived AD&D world will take on even more of their own direction and life.
This whole section is full of great DM advice!
CLIMATE & ECOLOGY contains some common sense and useful ideas, in the vein of "Gygaxian Naturalism" - dragons are not just archetypal monsters, but part of a food chain, etc.
TYPICAL INHABITANTS describes non-adventurers briefly; nothing interesting here.
SOCIAL CLASS AND RANK explains that these things depend on the setting, giving some examples.
Government Forms describe exactly that: autocracy, bureaucracy, confederacy, democracy, etc. Here is my own twist on the subject.
Royal And Noble Titles, likewise, describe a nobiliary hierarchy, both European (from emperors to knights and archbishops to priors, etc.) and Asian (including Maharajas, Sultans, Caliphs, and Khans).
THE TOWN AND CITY SOCIAL STRUCTURE is a (somewhat more interesting) description of how urban environments are governed.
ECONOMICS tries to explain the absurd prices you find in D&D. "The prices and costs of the game are based on inflationary economy, one where a sudden influx of silver and gold has driven everything well beyond its normal value." Yeah, okay.
The next justification sounds more reasonable: "It is simply more heroic for players to have their characters swaggering around with pouches full of gems and tossing out gold pieces than it is for them to have coppers."
The reason for prices is the "rule of cool"; it doesn't have to make much sense.
DUTIES, EXCISES, FEES, TARIFFS, TAXES, TITHES, AND TOLLS are created "to take excess monies away from player characters".
I had noticed this tendency of "give lots of treasure and then take it away" before, but here the author makes it explicit. This happens not only with taxes, but training, expenses, etc.
Which feel redundant and boring to me - why not just give them less treasure?
Remember the "rule of cool"? in the previous section? Well, when did you see Conan or Elric paying taxes? Or tutors, for that matter - especially after they started adventuring?
A whole page on taxes, but "critical hit tables are too complicated". The DMG is like that sometimes.
MONSTER POPULATIONS AND PLACEMENT insists on the "Gygaxian Naturalism" but allows for a “Disneyland” atmosphere with random disjointed monsters if you want (although this is not recommended for long campaigns).
This section contains good advice too, followed by a few examples.
Certain pre-done modules might serve in your milieu, and you should consider their inclusion in light of your overall schema. If they fit smoothly into the diagram of your milieu, by all means use them, but always alter them to include the personality of your campaign so the mesh is perfect. Likewise, fit monsters and magic so as to be reasonable within the scope of your milieu and the particular facet of it concerned. Alter creatures freely, remembering balance. Hit dice, armor class, attacks and damage, magical and psionic powers are all mutable; and after players become used to the standard types a few ringers will make them a bit less sure of things. Devising a few creatures unique to your world is also recommended.
PLACEMENT OF MONETARY TREASURE contains some vague, common sense advice on the matter. It also provides another explanation for the (low) value of precious metals: they become harder to carry.
PLACEMENT OF MAGIC ITEMS shows the author explicit regrets on giving away too many magic items, something that I've felt in my own games.
On the other hand, “killer-dungeons” are also criticized. Balance must be found!
In any case, "you must NEVER allow random determination to dictate the inclusion of ANY meaningful magic items.".
Interesting stuff, as it suggests a complete revision of previous random tables/rules.
TERRITORY DEVELOPMENT BY PLAYER CHARACTERS deals with high-level PCs establishing strongholds and similar structures, which requires detailed maps and procures.
This is how "the fantasy world builds itself" by "the interaction of judge and player".
Sounds incredibly fun!
I really like this section, makes me wish I had more high-level games.
PEASANTS, SERFS, AND SLAVES explains that they are always oppressed and periodically cause riots - which "the player character must suppress it as soon as possible".
Interesting if a bit reductionist.
A SAMPLE DUNGEON describes exactly that. Well, almost - just the first three rooms. This is an excerpt of room number ONE:
There are 10 moldy sacks of flour and grain stackedhere. The cloth is easily torn to reveal the contents. If all of them areopened and searched, there is a 25% probability that the last will haveYELLOW MOLD in it, and handling will automatically cause it to burstand all within 10’ must save versus poison or die in 1 turn.
So... yeah. Not a great example IMO. No "killer dungeons", remember? Right.
But this section contains icons and wandering monster tables, so a good format at least to help you create your own dungeons.
THE FIRST DUNGEON ADVENTURE describes a reasonably lengthy example of actual play - an expedition into the sample dungeon. It goes through many dungeon procedures that "The Adventure" skipped (well, listening is ALSO there for no apparent reason): doors, traps, hearing, etc., the most important being dungeon movement and the duration of various activities.
This part is particularly interesting:
You may use either of two methods to allow discovery of the mechanism which operates the portal:1. You may designate probability by a linear curve, typically with a d6. Thus,a secret door is discovered 1 in 6 by any non-elf, 2 in 6 by elven or halfelvencharacters, each character being allowed to roll each turn inchecking a 10’ × 10’ area. This also allows you to have some secret doorsmore difficult to discover, the linear curve being a d8 or d10.2. You may have the discovery of the existence of the secret door enableplayer characters to attempt to operate it by actual manipulation, i.e. theplayers concerned give instructions as to how they will have theircharacters attempt to make it function: “Turn the wall sconce.”, “Slide itleft.”, “Press the small protrusion, and see if it pivots.”, “Pull the chain.”It is quite acceptable to have a mixture of methods of discovering the operation of secret door.
So both "player skill" and "character skill" are acceptable - or a combination of both, which I like. This is something I addressed here.
The example continues on and it is reasonably useful for someone learning RPGs. It contains some curious rulings of varying quality - the MU tries to stomp on a spider and rolls well enough, but the DM decides the spider attacks first and suffers no damage...
I also noticed that the PCs are exceptionally lucky in their rolls, which shouldn't be assumed.
I like the fact that the DM spells out some chances ("The halfling at the top of the stack has a 1 in 6 chance of slipping and bringing you all down") while hiding other rolls ("Rolling a d6 behind a screen so that the players cannot see the result which would normally indicate if noise were detected or not") and simulating another ("DM: (Rolling a few dice behind the screen several times, knowing that tapping won’t show anything, as the secret door is 10’ above the floor:)".
Overall, a decent example of play.
What have we learned today?
My favorite part here is the campaign-building advice. Sensible, easy, organic stuff. I was pleased to see Gygax reconsidering the amount of magical items available, and both approaches to the "PC skill versus player skill" approach. I am not a fan of the experience rules or the explanations on economy, but I can see that training could have some upsides, like introducing relevant NPCs and downtime events.
Coming next... NPCs! CONSTRUCTION AND SIEGE! CONDUCTING THE GAME!
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